In a year of reporting on Muslims across this country, I walked away knowing that there is no one story to tell, there are many stories. And yet so often, Muslims are spoken of as a monolith rather than the diverse mosaic of practice, culture, tradition, race, gender and sexualities that they are.
But members of a new generation of American Muslims are intent on telling their own stories — in their own words and on their own terms. Muslims still make up just about 1 percent of the country's population, but the faith is growing and is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse religious groups in the country.
The young Muslims I met say they are tired of being put in a box labeled either villain or victim. So they're breaking it open. From the very religious to the Ramadan Muslims to the nonreligious, they're turning the stereotypes on their heads as they enter fashion, politics, academia, Hollywood, broadcasting and smoky comedy clubs.
Usama Canon, an American preacher and teacher, has described Islam, quoting a great scholar, as "a pure, clear water that takes the color of whatever riverbed it flows over." He said he hopes Muslims in America "can kind of color that bedrock in a beautiful way and can contribute to what is the American project in a way that when that water flows over it, it has a uniquely American and a distinctly American color and flavor but is authentic to itself as a faith tradition."
So we asked American Muslims to tell us how they are crafting their own stories — through art, music, activism or just their daily lives — and whether anything has changed in this political climate. We received nearly 200 responses, including people defining their own narratives in quiet ways, like a woman who wears a pin identifying herself as a Muslim, and louder ones — like the musician blending Middle Eastern tunes with jazz, rock and funk.
NPR's Leila Fadel traveled across the country to meet young Muslims expressing themselves in new ways. You can see more from her Muslims in America series here and in the May issue of the National Geographic.